Club stands to lose out

Outlook managing editor
Rod and Gun Club Treasurer Curtis Lord with President Irv Wilke and members Ben Lewis and Ron Herman are concerned about the future of their building in Riverside Park. The men don’t think city staff have been willing to work with them and are worried now that the historic buildings may be in jeopardy of demolition.

Members of the club who stand to lose the most in Riverside Park feel they aren’t being heard by city officials. Rod and Gun Club members have expressed their frustration in a letter signed by Club President Irv Wilke and Treasurer Curtis Lord addressed to the Laurel City Council. It is paired with a timeline showing the numerous contacts they have initiated with the park board, the council, the city’s Chief Administrative Officer Heidi Jensen, and others since the flood and oil pipeline break in 2011 forced the shuttering of the building they have called home for almost a century. Lord also penned a guest commentary which appears in today’s paper.
According to the timeline, after flooding damaged their building members were told by Public Works Director Kurt Markegard to halt repairs they had begun because the buildings were insured and would be repaired by licensed contractors. The Rod and Gun Club and the other buildings affected have languished ever since.
“We’ve offered to fix the building numerous times,” said Lord. “The park board even recommended the building be given to us so we could do the repairs and start using it again.” That recommendation was made over two years ago in April 2015. In May 2015, the city council authorized Jensen and the city attorney work with the club on transferring ownership.
The club has since followed directives from the city. Members have attended park board meeting, put requests in writing and when asked about mold still present in the building provided a report.
“We’ve followed through on everything they have asked for,” Wilke said. “But they aren’t even considering us in the master plan.”
Wilke is referring to the posters created for the Riverside Park open house Monday Aug. 14. from 4-7 p.m. Despite requesting that shooting sports be among the items reviewed it was removed from the list of priorities to be considered.
“The CAO told the engineer not to include shooting sports on the posters because our lease expires next year,” he said. “But, where does it say we can’t renegotiate the lease?”
Great West Engineer Jerry Grebenc who has been contracted to create the park’s master plan sent this email response after receiving a query from an Outlook staff member, “My conversations regarding the trap range and the open house on the 14th have been with Heidi as Great West is contracted with the City to facilitate the planning process and Heidi is who we report to directly. Heidi has indicated that it is the City’s position that the trap range is no longer an option at the Park. Therefore in order not to raise the expectations of attendees regarding trap shooting, she gave me direction that a poster should not be included at the open house.” (Jensen disputes giving Grebenc any direction.)
Although there are posters regarding the buildings, none specifically indicate the clubs would be able to continue leasing them.
“We’ll end up moving the traps to Silesia,” Wilke said. “But we’d still like to use the building. We’re happy to let the city and citizens use it as well.” He said that at one time the outdoor covered range was the largest in the state and before the flood there were shooting events every Sunday and Thursday.
“We had guys who would get off shift from the refinery and come over every week,” he said.
In addition to regular turkey shoots that will have to be moved, the park facilities had been used for hunter education classes.
There are issues concerning lead in both the Rifle Club building and on the trap range.
At a council workshop May 30, Montana Municipal Insurance Authority Chief Executive Officer
Alan Hulse reported to the council about the liabilities associated with municipalities that have shooting sports facilities. As his report wasn’t requested by any of the council members, the Rod and Gun Club and the Rifle Club officers feel they were unfairly targeted. At a subsequent meeting, Mayor Mark Mace ordered all buildings in the park with the exception of Jaycee Hall be closed to all entrants. Although Hulse was on the agenda for the workshop, members of the clubs affected were not informed prior to the meeting that shooting sports would be discussed.
“It’s interesting that nobody had any interest in this park until there was money to be had,” he said.
Exxon, owner of the pipeline that broke during the flood, made a settlement of about $265,000 specifically for the park.


Upcoming Events

Saturday, July 20, 2019
Third Saturdays, 1 p.m., The Crossings, 600 Roundhouse Dr.
Tuesday, July 23, 2019
Tuesdays, Noon, Beartooth Grill, 305 1st Ave. S.
Tuesday, July 23, 2019
Fourth Tuesdays, 7 p.m., Eagles Hall, 313 W. Main, 628-4503
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
10 a.m., Laurel Public Library, 720 West Third Street, Laurel, 628-4961
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., check for more info. Find them on Facebook . Email them to find out meeting time and to join: The club will have a meeting or volunteer activity. Meeting location is Sid's East Side Bar & Grill on first and third Wednesdays of each month. Members and guests eat free.  Volunteer activity on the second Wednesday of each month. Check their facebook page for updates.  Every fourth Wednesday is for a club social activity. 
Tuesday, July 30, 2019
Tuesdays, Noon, Beartooth Grill, 305 1st Ave. S.


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